Not Fragile - Shout to the master 4/5

Reviewed: 12-1-13


1. Years on the run
2. Shout to the master
3. Lost behind the stars
4. Unleash the dragon
5. Thunderbolt man
6. I don’t want to lie 4 you
7. Human revolution
8. Ready to sacrifice
9. Princess of the kingdom
10. Into the madhouse
11. Zombie dance
12. Stand up and fight

For lo these many years, I’ve undertaken the role of self-appointed advocate for Not Fragile. The German speed metal quartet have been laboring in obscurity for more than a quarter century. By my count, ‘Shout to the master’ marks the band’s 9th CD release and, aside from a single misstep in the form of 1995’s watered-down ‘The return’, Not Fragile’s output has been consistently excellent, even if precious few outside their homeland have noticed. I’ve tried to do my part by reviewing their last 3 CDs on this site to draw attention to this remarkable, under-appreciated band. What bandleader Torsten Buczko and his bandmates deliver each and every time out is an inspired workout in pure, unadulterated, 80s-style German melodic speed metal. It’s a very specific sound that once had many practitioners, of which Helloween (circa the likes of “Starlight” and “Warrior”) is the most heralded. But this style of music has mostly been abandoned now, and few are left to carry the torch. Thankfully, Not Fragile are still here. I had feared that perhaps the band had called it a day, given that their most recent new studio release was 2007’s ‘Scratch the surface’, so it was cause for celebration to learn that they were back with ‘Shout at the master’.

Not Fragile can be compared favorably to France’s Killers. Both are bona fide 80s bands with extensive discographies and extremely stubborn/single-minded guitarist/vocalist bandleaders. Both have stuck to their guns through good times and bad, adhering to their sound and style no matter which way the fickle winds of public fancy may blow. And both are among the last of the original wave of European speed metal bands to have persevered through the present day. The principal difference between Buczko’s crew and Bruno Dolheguy’s bunch is that Not Fragile possess that unerring German ear for melody and perfectly balance the melody with the speed, both in the guitars and in Buczko’s distinctive Kai Hansen-type vocals. (That’s not to take anything away from Killers, of course. That band rules mightily.) So what is the state of Not Fragile circa 2013? Judging by the output on ‘Shout at the master’, the band is strong and healthy. ‘Shout at the master’ features no innovations, no experiments, no deviations from the path of righteousness. Instead, Not Fragile offer up 11 original songs (plus one fantastic cover, on which I will say more in a moment) in their patented style, all fast-paced compact anthems with catchy riffs and heartfelt vocals. For those who love this sound, the likes of “Years on the run”, “Unleash the dragon”, “I don’t want to lie 4 you”, “Princess of the kingdom”, and “Into the madhouse” are timeless treasures. For everyone else, it’s like Kai Hansen sang back in 1986, “If you don’t feel it you won’t understand.” I’m not trying to be flippant or condescending. It’s just that ‘Shout at the master’ will likely come across as hopelessly dated and quaint to those who don’t absolutely cherish this kind of music, going back to the days of Atlain, Brainfever and yes, Helloween’s mini-LP.

So what about that cover song? At the end of the CD, Not Fragile have tacked on a version of Exciter’s “Stand up and fight”. What makes Not Fragile’s take on this ‘Heavy metal maniac’ staple so entertaining is that they have molded it to their own style, jacking up the speed considerably, adding more melody to the buzzsaw guitars, and altering the vocal lines to fit Buczko’s delivery. I didn’t even recognize the song at first, but assumed it was a Not Fragile original. Some may find the new arrangement sacrilegious, but to me Not Fragile have taken an all-time classic heavy metal track and made it their own, which is just awesome.

Alas, time is running out, my friends. I’ve been exhorting, cajoling and wheedling you to give Not Fragile a chance for nearly a decade. Who knows how much longer Torsten Buczko and his merry marauders will remain in the game? And who knows how much longer they can continue to produce CDs of this quality, enhancing rather than tarnishing their legacy? What I do know is that ‘Shout to the master’ is a terrific slab of authentic, pure German speed metal brought to you by a band that was there when it all started. That’s good enough for me.




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